Environmental Activism was never something I thought would be my life's work, but it found me. It was not like getting hit over the head with it, it was gentle like a breeze on a warm day.
In August of 2006, I moved to Miami attending NEO for college. It was such an exciting time, getting out on my own and finding myself in a new place. Before moving to Miami I knew nothing about the area. Even as a college student running around town and the surrounding area or checking out the creek next to the college I knew nothing about the environmental devastation that lay there.
It wasn't until I started working at LEAD Agency as a NEO Work Study did learn about all the damage the area had endured. The "mountains" to the north, along dirt roads that had been a fun cruising place, now had a whole new meaning to me. How could I have never known about this? How could I have grown up only an hour to the south and not been aware?
I fell in love with LEAD Agency. It quickly became my place. I found great joy in meeting all the people of the area and learning their stories, pawing through history of the area, meeting with scientifically minded people that came from all over the country that had no problem sitting down with you and helping you understand it all. LEAD Agency helped me grow.
After graduating from NEO I wasn't ready to move on. So I started working with Workforce at LEAD Agency, then AmeriCorps Vista, then as a Research Assistant.
In 2012 my whole world changed. I had my daughter. I fell in love all over again.
But with that came Mom Guilt. Here I was educating Ottawa County residents of the dangers of lead poisoning and the harms it has on the developing minds of children and I was raising my daughter here. How could I keep her safe?
I became obsessed with keeping her areas free of contamination; I swept and mopped the floors at the least daily, wet dusted often, if you came in my house take off your shoes, dropped the binkie had to wash it, she didn't play in the yard (we lived along a "gravel alley that was remediated after she was born and across from a school's play ground that had been remediated).
My mother often told her, "don't worry", because she had a concerned look on her face. Now all these years later I understand why, I was always worried!
Come 2013 we made the choice to move. My daughter was almost a year old.
As a mother all I ever wanted was a safe place for my child, and if moving away for Miami was the answer, then that's what had to be done. By moving she could freer, she could play in the yard without the worry of lead contamination, she could play on the floor without me having to panic clean it first.
Before we moved, I took her to the Ottawa County Health Department to have her lead levels checked. And waited for the results......
No detectable lead. I was so relieved! All of the obsessing wasn't for nothing.
Now almost 10 years later, I have come back to environmental activism and LEAD Agency. In that time life has thrown me a lot of curves, but I have defininetly learned that "not all those that wander are lost". And I have wandered back to my happy place; helping educate people, pawing over history and documents, and hearing your stories. But this time from afar (with trips to Miami now-and-again).
My daughter is now a happy, healthy 10 year old 5th grader with A-Bs that loves the outdoors, music, art and her little brother.
My 2 year old son, has a entirely different experience. He can play outside in the mud with the dog and sneak cheerios off the floor before I can clean them up. We have less of a concern about lead here, but having a baby during a pandemic is a whole different type of Mom Guilt.